These are slides from a talk that I organized for Cary Homeschoolers.
These are slides from a talk that I organized for Cary Homeschoolers.
Here are two things to check out.
The first is a grain-free pizza that my guys have declared the best and saves us loads of money: http://thedomesticman.com/2012/12/13/cast-iron-skillet-grain-and-gluten-free-pizza/
Second is an article about sugar by Dr. Christine Northrup, which I tripped on when researching the latest study pointing out how inadequate mammograms are: http://www.drnorthrup.com/blog/2014/02/savoring-the-sweet-life-without-the-sugar
After almost 5.5 years of blogging I continue to learn and excel, but my focus has shifted to other projects because homeschooling my almost 11 year old son has really heated up. I may leave the blog live and shift to my other inspirations, but I am not sure yet.
Thanks for reading all of these posts and wishing you much success on your next adventures!
I am finding that The Slight Edge and Hormesis paradigms are really helpful for me as I tackle sugar in 2014. I wasn’t out of control with it at the end of 2013, but it is time for me to up my game. The toughest challenge will come when I make Colson’s peanut butter cup ice cream cake for his birthday in March.
To read more about how these ideas are helping me, go to my website.
If you will recall, I have a pretty darn low testosterone level: Major Sleep Breakthrough – The Hormonal Component. I had some more hormone testing done, and my results are just as dismal:
Testosterone: 12.7 (low end normal but my MD and my doc of Oriental medicine want it higher)
Free Testosterone: <0.2 (should be at least 1 according to my MD)
Estradiol: 31.1 (should be at least 43.8 – I am not ovulating regularly anymore)
Progesterone: 1.6 (should be 10 – 15)
My MD says that my results aren’t that out of whack for a soon to be 48 year old, except for the Testosterone.
I am crazy about this doc – she gets the take care of the body and don’t medicate unless you have to thing. She has what seems to be a fully valid plan for addressing my deficits, but I am trying my Oriental medicine doc’s approach first simply because he was available first and I trust him - when I first went to him my body was so wasted I can’t describe it and he has pulled me out of menopausal symptoms before. Among the many things that are great about my MD is that she is cool with the Oriental medicine approach and said to try it, but if it didn’t get me where I need to be then I should try hers. I am very comfortable with her approach and will shift if I am not balanced in a fairly reasonable amount of time (about a month).
The two key factors for me are to stop the night sweats and sleep through the night. My MD said that the night sweats could be waking me or it could be a corisol issue. If the night sweats don’t go away following the Oriental approach, I should take Kavinase Flash Ease. Once the night sweats are under control, and if I am still waking, I should take Cortisol Calm.
HOT FLASHES/NIGHT SWEATS
My Oriental medicine doc told me to take Golden Flower Chinese Herbs Rehmannia & Scrophularia Formula for the night sweats – 2 pills 3x a day. For the last three nights the night sweats have disappeared but I woke one of those nights. Night waking began again when my digestion tanked (see I Have GERD. What?!?!? Causes, Feedback Loops and Cures (and it affects my sleep!), but now that I am getting that under control I need to see if I start sleeping through again.
I told my MD that I figured out the digestion issue and that no inhaler was needed, and she said she was glad for the insight. She approved of the digestive enzymes (Tranformation Digest Enzyme Supplement) and HCL (TerrainZyme HCL Pro-Zyme) that I was taking. I am surprised by what a factor the digestive enzymes play. It seems that I can go without HCL and take digestive enzymes and have only the slightest of phlegm production, but if I miss the digestive enzymes the congestion comes back.
My MD approved of my doc of Oriental medicine’s testosterone recommendation (bull testicle) when I visited a month ago, but she gave some more feedback this time. She said that she would prefer that I was taking ovaries instead of bull testicle. She said she believes that testosterone produced by a female is better for females but she couldn’t cite hard evidence. Even so, that seems reasonable to me, but I just got a new bottle of the bull, so I will continue. The bull testicle made a big difference for my sleep until my digestion tanked. Even with that, it is still keeping me warm through seriously cold North Carolina weather (16° this morning – I didn’t walk the dog far) and my energy is consistent through the day. Both docs said that this should be my last bottle of testosterone because my body needs to do the work. This supplementation is just a boost to help me get back into balance and not a permanent supplement.
Ok…How many MDs could have had that discussion?
INFLAMMATORY MARKERS (my book writing friend - if you are still reading I would appreciate your feedback on these. thanks!)
Hemoglobin A1C, a diabetic measure, was 5.6. According to the lab that is high normal, with range of 4.8 – 5.6. That is frustrating because I am eating as clean as I possibly can. My diet is a low inflammatory diet, darn it. But I did mostly stop working out for a couple of months while trying to baby my adrenal glands, so that could be a factor.
Glucose was 74. Normal is 65 – 99, but I am low and I feel hypoglycemic. My doc of Oriental medicine says that will rise as my sleep improves.
C-Reactive Protein, a measure of cardiovascular events, was 1.52. I fall in the average range of 1.00 – 3.00. My MD wasn’t worried but my Oriental medicine doc wanted me to watch that. I know I should be below 1.0 and low risk given my self-care. CRP could be caused by my sleep disturbances, my greatly reduced workouts or my low vitamin D (see Vitamin D Deficiency – Geez!). Because I am fixing my imbalances, working out again and treating my vitamin D, I won’t know which one of these things will have the most impact.
Vitamin D was 22.6, with the normal range being 30 – 100 according to the lab. I got lazy and quit supplementing. I had not good reason to stop. I just got cranky about taking D. Needless to say I am taking it again (this one because I don’t convert D well) along with butter oil and cod liver oil.
For more on Vitamin D read the latest by Chris Masterjohn, who illustrates that D supplemented without A can be damaging, as can D when levels are too high: Nutritional Adjuncts to the Fat-Soluble Vitamins.
BRINGING THE STRESS LEVEL DOWN
I have a really good life. I like it. I am crazy about my little family. What I didn’t realize is how stressful homeschooling, consulting, and cooking can be. My guys have been out of town for a week. While I miss them a bunch (this is my first time I have been away from my son in a relaxed way – the other time involved my nephew’s funeral), I didn’t realize how fast I was always moving until they left. I have now had six days of moving at my pace, doing what I want when I want, and wow. Just wow. Talk about relaxing. When I sleep well all that activity is no big deal. When I don’t it is tough.
I can look down the road and see that I need to change my attitude, because I am not going to stop homeschooling, cooking or consulting, which is intermittent and not overly stressful. I am really surprised by the energy I put into homeschooling. I thought that as he aged homeschooling would get easier but the opposite has happened. For him to have the experiences I want, I often have to create them, which means leading a math circle (great fun and really works all of our minds), organizing and teaching in another co-op, creating talks with guest speakers, and teaching at home.
And then there is the physical angle. Including my son there are seven 10 year old boys on my street. That should be perfect, right? I couldn’t have been more wrong. They have a different level of integrity and kindness and they prefer video games to running around outside. The other day Colson pointed out how wrong the situation is. In our old neighborhood running around outside, being dirty and full of scabs was a daily event. Colson sadly remarked that he doesn’t have one scab on his body because there is no one to play with in this neighborhood. So I am running around, learning balance on giant log piles and doing other crazy stuff and I have to organize other play events so he can get what he needs. I can’t believe homeschoolers will drive 40 minutes to my house to play, yet we can’t get the neighborhood kids involved in a Nerf war. Gotta love those purposefully addicting computer games and the parents who don’t have the will to stand up to them.
On a funny note, check out this Pokemon Card that Colson made for me. My deck was unbalanced and he fixed it by making this power card :
This health journey never ceases to surprise me, and I am pretty floored this time. I developed a weird cough in November. There was fluid in my esophagus (or maybe it was my trachea?) and I couldn’t expel it. It would come and go at the start and then it became constant and I was coughing throughout the day. Eventually I started wheezing and had to sleep with a humidifier. I told my doc of Oriental medicine and he gave me an herbal formula that helped, but it didn’t cure. In desperation I took 1 T apple cider vinegar, 1 T lemon juice and 1 T honey. It actually tasted pretty good. In about a half hour my cough ended and the liquid feeling in the trachea was about 90 percent gone. Half way through the day the cough came back so I took the acid concoction again and things were better. I wrote my doc and told him what I had done and he said that I had low stomach acid/heartburn/GERD/ Hypochlorhydria. “Good insight,” he said. “What insight?” I said. That was sheer luck.
I absolutely can’t believe I have low stomach acid. I don’t have feelings of heartburn the way people normally think of it. There is no burning, just that water won’t go away problem in my throat that eventually turns into asthma. So much so that my gynecologist wanted to prescribe an inhaler for me last month. My brain must have been turned completely off, because after all of these years I should have known that this was all a gut imbalance of some sort. Oh well. At least I have it figured out now.
So here is part of the scoop on low stomach acid/HCL/heartburn, etc. As we age our natural HCL production declines. By 50, it can be 50 percent decreased. Without enough HCL, a whole bunch of bad things can happen. I provide links below so that you can read about them, but the ground zero outcome is that food isn’t properly digested, it ferments and that can be a cascade of nastiness. Apparently most people are diagnosed with too much HCL and are put on proton-pump inhibitors like Prilosec to reduce stomach acid, which only makes the fermentation situation worse. Most people need more stomach acid, not less. The reasons why are explained in the links below.
Here is an interesting tidbit. Apparently children with asthma often have low stomach acid and when their natural acid finally ramps up the asthma goes away. You can read about that in one of the links below.
HERE IS WHAT ALL OF THIS MEANS FOR ME
In addition to a reduction in HCL caused by aging, cortisol can also reduce HCL. I have too much cortisol thanks to insomnia, which is caused by a messed up adrenal axis, resulting in testosterone levels that are too low, which causes me to wake at night. The lost sleep stresses the adrenals, ups the cortisol, reduces the testosterone, reduces the HCL and reduces sleep. It is a seriously viscous cycle.
My sleep had been pretty good until the low stomach acid problem started in November. As the problem worsened so did my sleep. Now that I am correcting the problem my sleep is improving.
While low HCL problem was at its worst, the itchy scalp that I cured through magnesium supplementation came back. Constipation became a problem. My fingernails developed significant vertical ridges. The itchy scalp is gone again thanks to the lemon juice. Lemon juice works better for me that apple cider vinegar, presumably because it is more acidic.
I emailed my doc of Oriental medicine and told him I want to do a Betaine HCL challenge and incorporate some digestive enzymes because apparently those decline when HCL declines. He said it was time for me to do it since the lemon juice hasn’t completely kicked the problem. I pick the supplements up tomorrow and will report back.
Tomorrow I also go back to the gynecologist to discuss my abysmal hormone results. My free testosterone tanked. Almost non-existent. Total testosterone has not changed even though I am supplementing with bull testicle and desiccated liver. Recall from this post that testosterone supplementation has been helpful, even with my bad results: Major Sleep Breakthrough – The Hormonal Component. I hope my MD can help me better link the hormone results to the digestive issues and come up with a way to jumpstart my adrenals so that testosterone production goes up, cortisol goes down, HCL and digestive enzymes improve and sleep improves. Wacky how it is all related. I bet she will be surprised to learn that the inhaler she wanted to prescribe is really a digestive issue. I will report back the results of our meeting.
Here are the links to the information I read:
Finally, I asked my doc of Oriental medicine about working out because I hadn’t worked out much in the last three months and was the weakest I have been in over 20 years. He recommended a book that would give me results in only 12 minutes a week, hardly stressing my adrenals. I found that heard to believe so I asked Robb Wolf and he seconded the recommendation, so it must be a pretty good book: Body By Science. This could be a good resource for folks who are more adrenal compromised than I.
Both my doc and Robb said that because I am not wiped out by my push-up/pull-up/squat/plank routine that it would be ok to go back to that too. I am about a week in to my old routine and my strength is quickly returning.
Four years ago Ryan and I wrote the Sex, Health and Food post. It is worth reading for both men and women because so many couples are affected by female adrenal fatigue. Women need to understand that THEY ARE NOT ALONE AND THERE ARE SOLUTIONS and men MUST UNDERSTAND THAT WOMEN ARE EXHAUSTED AND THEY MUST HELP THEM RECOVER. Women who are having sleep difficulties can often relate to our post.
Since that time, sleep continues to be a struggle for me. I could sleep great for a long time, but I tripped easily and plunged back into the sleep-deprived struggle several times. Almost two years ago Ryan tripped me up because he didn’t want to be gluten-free and he started to eat wheat fairly regularly, he started snoring and I stopped sleeping. I got back to good sleep thanks to my doc of Oriental medicine (DOM), who is the gentlest of human beings, and he pretty much demanded that I get my own bedroom. I didn’t want my own bed, as I am crazy about Ryan, but I knew it was the right thing. For the record, Ryan has been gluten-free and 99 percent grain-free (he reacts to rice and corn too) since that moment, thank goodness. My recovery to great sleep took a couple of months, but then I tripped myself by overdoing and incorrectly doing a core exercise that sent my back into a spasm that was as bad as when I broke it 17 years ago. One-and-a-half years later (now) I am finally back on my sleep game. It takes just a little stumble to go over the edge and quickly slide down to the continuously exhausted, sick feeling that I know far too well.
During the summer of 2013 I finally got fed up and started taking matters into my own hands, which I discussed a month ago when I blogged about my Most Important Sleep Lessons. I have learned even more since. I reported in my last post that at the recommendation of my DOM I take desiccated liver and desiccated bull testicle to boost my low testosterone level of 18. I am about ready to declare these supplements, also known as glandulars, successful. Here is why.
1. At about four weeks in I was sleeping at least six hours a night straight through the night. That is a huge improvement from sleeping four hours and then being up for the day at 1:30 or 2:00 a.m. On good nights after waking I would read for a couple of hours and fall back asleep for about two more hours. While I was finally reading for pleasure (I wouldn't make the time before), this was far from ideal. To wake up at 4:00 or 4:30 and getting at least 6 hours of sleep (sometimes more because I go to bed earlier) felt pretty darn good. Now I am hitting seven hours of deep sleep a night and waking up refreshed.
2. My energy normally lags in the afternoon (for the last 29 years - my freshman year in college), but not anymore. I am experiencing full energy through the day.
3. I had suffered through the colder weather since my mid-20s when my insomnia started. Temperatures in the low 60s could turn my fingers and toes a waxy yellow and I would be cold to the bone. When it was colder than 60° they would remain waxy for 15 or 20 minutes when returning to a warm building. At about two weeks into taking the supplements the bone chilling cold began to fade and now, four weeks in, I was pretty immune to the cold. I can walk my dog on a 25° morning and my toes and fingers no longer turn waxy and they no longer hurt. I also don't need loads of clothes. By the end of the day I am not chilled through and can get into the bed comfortably, without freezing and needing socks and warm clothes. Yay for all of that!
4. When it is time to sleep I am just about passing out. I am sleeping deeply and the dreams are wild. My body craves sleep at the end of the day.
5. My workouts are improving. Because I was babying my adrenal glands I hadn't worked out with any vigor in about two months. I am now slowly beginning to ramp up.
6. I tripped up about five weeks into this journey thanks to a bad fire alarm battery that announced itself at 11:30 pm. I was up for good at that point because, just as I was falling asleep again, Colson woke me with a headache at 1:30 am. That led to five nights of bad sleep (about four hours, which isn’t that bad for me), but only five nights, and then I started sleeping through the night again. My dreams are wild. I am certain that my monthly cycle combined with the unexpected waking had something to do with this very minor round of sleep difficulties because the night sweats cranked up the night after the fire alarm and headache events. The night sweats stopped and my good sleep returned when my period began. Now I am feeling so good that I must hold myself back from activities because I don’t want to upset this great sleep balance.
7. I want to applaud my gynecologist. She is awesome. When I explained to her what I was doing she fully supported it and said she was glad that I didn’t resort to the testosterone implant that my other doc (MD) friend recommended (recall from this post). He wanted my testosterone level at 80. My gynecologist said that at 80 I would have loads of energy but that I would probably not be happy with the facial hair I grew. Yikes! She preferred the glandulars and agreed with my DOM. She also said that testosterone of 18 isn’t that bad. Even so, I am doing so much better with the glandulars. I am going to get another blood test at 21 days into my cycle, as that is the best time to measure hormone levels. She is thinking that my estrogen may be off.
8. Finally, I want to thank Robb Wolf. That guy is amazing. I don’t know how he finds the time to respond to my questions, but he does. Thanks to him I am getting this hormone piece under control and through his podcasts and blog he has helped me in so many other ways.
SUPPLEMENTS I AM TAKING
1. Dr. Ron's Bull Testicle - 2 capsules in the a.m. to increase testosterone.
2. Green Pastures dessicaetd liver - 2 capsules in the a.m. to increase testosterone
3. Adaptocrine - 2 capsules with each meal to support adrenal recovery.
4. Magnesium (see this post for all of the great benefits I have gotten from mg) - 600 mg - to help me to sleep. I don't think I need it any longer, but I experience so many other benefits that I am not going to stop.
5. Bu Fei – 8 capsules 3 times a day. My DOM recommended I take this to tonify my lungs. I had developed a wonky cough just above my lungs (and sometimes moves into my lungs) that has come and gone for a couple of months. He said that my adrenal fatigue has played a role and Bu Fei will help balance that. After just two days the cough has greatly reduced and I expect it will be gone soon.
SUPPLEMENT THAT I USED TO TAKE
Adrenacalm (you will have to Google that one because I can’t hyperlink it for some reason) - This is a cream that I would apply at the bends of my arms and legs three times a day. It contains phosphatidylserine (PS) and other adrenal supporting, sleep promoting components. Adrenacalm used to help me sleep, but I realized that it was no longer effective. My DOM says it is because I finally filled my stores. That took about 3.5 years. Geez! You can read about my PS challenge here.
I will report back in a couple of weeks what my new blood test reveals and what corrective action may be needed.
I can’t believe how many people it took for me to get to this place. Health really is a team effort. My DOM and my awesome gynecologist hadn’t put all the pieces together but they were on the right track thank goodness. And the advice of another MD (thanks paleo doc) and the advice of Robb Wolf were also key.
Now that the pieces are coming together and he understands my history more, my DOM said I could have been set for low testosterone due to stressful events and poor diet as a child, which could help explain why I had the need for a mid-afternoon nap even when sleeping at least 8 hours a night and before I developed insomnia. I know that long-term sleep deprivation could have negative impacts on my brain function as I age. My DOM said that by continuing to challenge my brain, healing from insomnia and the associated inflammation, exercising and oxygenating my body and eating well that I can continue to grow my brain function, not reduce it.
I am a big fan of Chris Kresser, Dr. Stephanie Seneff (see her work on Cholesterol Sulfate below and Glyphosate) and my doc. It is interesting how information converges. Earlier this year I heard a podcast by Chris (see Is Resistant Starch (RS) Useful) within days of discussing resistant starch with my doc. I began to take it (3 TBS a day in water), but didn’t see any benefit after two weeks and fell off the wagon. The benefits could possibly have been still to come, as I am finding it takes me some time to load some nutrients like magnesium, and maybe I didn’t dose long enough. I am going to give it another try.
Chris recently made another RS podcast, this one entirely dedicated to gut health and RS: You Are What Your Bacteria Eat: The Importance of Feeding Your Microbiome – With Jeff Leach. It was a good podcast and what really caught my attention was Jeff Leach’s reference to foods that feed the prebiotic critters: onions, garlic, asparagus, and other foods high in cholesterol sulfate, which is a focus of Stephanie’s work. See these posts: Dr. Stephanie Seneff, D3 and Cholesterol Sulfate, Vitamin D, Hormesis, Northern Europeans and Dr. Stephanie Seneff and Cholesterol Sulfate, Vitamin D and Hormesis - more to consider.
I sent Chris’s podcast to Stephanie and she noted the similarities in food recommendations for completely different reasons and replied with this research paper from the Journal of Nutrition: Prebiotic Capacity of Inulin-Type Fructans, which explains RS further. The entire Journal is dedicated to prebiotics and there is a tool in the upper right hand corner that will allow you to read related articles of interest.
What surprised me about Chris’s podcast is that Jeff Leach’s gut health seems to be optimal because he loads with RS/prebiotics, which feed probiotic bacteria, and he does not eat fermented foods/probiotics. Prebiotics and probiotics clearly go hand in hand, and I tried to find a source explaining their relationship and strengths. I am frustrated that the best source I found was created by a supplement company - I prefer a less biased source. Even so, if you want to learn more about prebiotics and probiotics then check this comparison out: Prebiotics Vs. Probiotics: What's the Difference?
I am going to continue to ferment because it just feels good when I eat the foods. Perhaps that will change as I load with prebiotics, but until then I am going to continue to enjoy my kombucha, beet kvass, kefir and kraut.
Recently someone requested information regarding why sugar is bad and I enthusiastically responded with some quick info from my blog. Since we are in the full swing of Sugar Season, I thought I would repost these entries in case you need extra motivation to not over consumer and trash your body.
The posts are below. For what it is worth, this new CBC documentary, The Secrets of Sugar, reports that sugar consumption in the US is now 26 teaspoons a day, up from the 22.6 teaspoons I cite in a post below.
Colson and I took what we learned from the documentary to understand how much sugar is in my favorite ice cream, pictured below. Yikes!
Good luck this holiday season! Think Slight Edge!
Now for the scary stuff.
This post links to research on reduced lifespan: The Sugar Bandit - How It Robs Your Health.
Here's a good one: Weekly Eye Opener - Sugar Conspiracy.
Highlight - Our generation of kids will be the first to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.
Here are my latest thoughts: Which Food Devastates Most - Sugar, Wheat or GMOs?
Finally, sugar's link to cancer: Sugar Grows Cancer.
This Saifun recipe is from my friend Gregg - one of his family's traditional recipes. Holy moly it is good! So good that I was not tired of it after eating it for four days. I wish it was a never-ending, self-regenerating food. Saifun is bone broth heavy, but somehow, more than any other broth-based food I have made, the flavor enhances wonderfully the next day. I have never cooked anything like it, and Ryan, Colson and I were a little scared when it was done because it was a wobbly, weird something until we dug in. You will know you are successful when you have a wobbly mess of noodles with very little leftover broth. Best of all, it just feels good and right.
Here is Gregg's recipe, with some comments by me in brackets.
First thing....make a chicken broth. Break apart a whole chicken, I used kitchen shears and cut the wings and leg bones up to release the marrow. [I don't boil my chicken because I prefer roasted meat - I roast it, pull the meat and refrigerate, place the bones in water with 2 TBS apple cider vinegar, let it soak for 1/2 hour, turn it on and bring it to a simmer, add the chicken drippings, onion, carrot, celery and fresh herbs if I have them. Turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 8 to 16 hours, depending on time constraints].
Now back to Gregg's instructions, which are great if you prefer to boil meat or are crunched for time:
Add chicken to a large pot with giblets, onion, celery, bay leaves, spices. Cover the chicken completely with cold water. Bring to a boil then simmer. You will know you are done when the meat falls from or is easily pulled from the bone.
Remove all the chicken from the broth and set aside. Once the chicken cools enough, you will take out all the bones. Discard the bone and all the skin. If you've chopped the chicken to release marrow, be sure to get any little bone pieces out. Keep the meat to add later. Give the heart and liver to a deserving dog. Refrigerate the chicken if you are completing the dish the next day.
Strain out all of the veg and discard. You just want a clean broth.
My family removes the fat from the broth. The It can be too greasy if you don't. You can do this two ways. Use a measuring cup that is a fat seperator. Or you can let the broth cool, the put it in the fridge over night. The fat will harden on top of the broth, You can strain it out, or simply lay pieces of paper towel on top of it. The grease will cling to the paper towel and easily lift out. A bit of chicken fat left is tasty. [I don't remove the fat and it is yummy fine with it or without it.]
Once the grease is removed, put the broth back into the large soup pan. (Heat up the cold broth a bit if it was taken from the fridge) Add the mung bean noodle brichs to the broth....let is soak a bit.
Turn on the heat. Bring to a boil, turn down to simmer. Add the julienned carrots. Add the chicken to heat up again. You will have cut the chicken into bite sized bits by now. The dry noodles will eventually soak up all of the chicken broth. Add the chopped celery toward the end. You want it cooked yet still with a bit of crunch.
I forgot to keep track of cooking times. It was easy to watch.
We eat it over rice.
Add soy sauce and that's it.
My friend Melissa turned me on to this replacement for the Girl Scout's samoa cookie, formerly one of my favorite cookies. I have been Samoa-less for at least 10 years (thanks to the birth of my son), and I hadn't missed it, but the ingredients in this cookie had me pretty darn curious. The key to this cookie is to eat it frozen.
Here is the link to the recipe: Paleo Samoa Cookies!
Here is the actual recipe in case that link disappears some day:
It has been almost two months since I last posted, and I am amazed that so many people are still reading. I have been focusing on getting better sleep and homeschooling my now fifth grader, which means that we are really stepping things up. It is amazing what a 10 year old can accomplish in so little time when he wants to, which means that I need to keep finding new challenges for him. The crazy thing is that he still has a lot of creative free time. And there is the cooking. That never goes away. I have some new recipes to share in future posts.
So what about sleep? I have learned A LOT (heaps, oodles, scads, etc.) about sleep. Time to dive in, first with a short explanation of how sleep became an issue for me because there is both a psychological component and a biological one. I didn’t appreciate the biological one and its relationship to psychology until recently. Stand by – this is a very long post and hopefully it will be helpful.
My sleep became difficult when I was about 24 (or for 23 years or almost half of my life!!) and I couldn’t deal with the professor that I was assigned to for my grad school assistantship. He was a smarmy asshole. My choices were to deal with him and keep my free ride or bail and pay a lot of money that I didn’t have, so I stuck it out and my distress led to lack of sleep (1 to 2 hours a night and sometimes a couple of days with no sleep and body-forced micro-naps in the middle of conversations with my eyes wide open!). The pattern was set – get bothered and don’t fall asleep. Then fear not sleeping, with the anxiety around that reaching a point that I wouldn’t fall sleep because of that, and it churned into a vicious cycle of almost 20 years of compromised sleep. I wish I would have known about Emotional Freedom Technique back then, but I don’t think it had been developed.
It is amazing how youth carried me through my sleep hardships. As severely sleep deprived as I was, I was able run 3 miles and lift weights for 1.5 hours six days a week, all while eating a high carb, low fat, low protein diet of processed foods. Talk about a recipe for adrenal disaster. I am in awe of my ability to ignore my body. I don’t have a good adjective for that level of stupidity.
There were a few good sleep years thanks to a chiropractor/homeopath that I know. He helped me diffuse the anxiety around not sleeping, but insomnia crept back in eventually. I know some of you don’t believe in homeopathy, but for me it worked at that point, whether it was my mind or the remedy creating the solution it doesn’t matter. All I know is that I slept and felt great for a couple of years.
Eventually the psychological difficulty was joined by the biological. I didn’t know that when you don’t sleep you produce cortisol, which wreaks all kinds of havoc on the body and affects sleep. I am sure it has done much to me and I am not going to research all of it at this point because I don’t want to know. I KNOW that I need to sleep and I don’t need any other motivators.
I learned some important effects of cortisol thanks to my doc of Oriental medicine. For example, insomnia at its worst makes me hypoglycemic, even though I eat a low carbohydrate diet. While hypoglycemic I am not fueling my brain enough, it wakes me in a starvation state in the middle of the night and I don’t go back to sleep. The recommendation of eating a high fat/protein snack before bed doesn’t work – I eat that way all the time. I started eating a banana or a spoon of honey before bed (gack – I don’t eat sugar normally and honey is tough) and that sometimes helps, but the biological component has gone beyond that. I will discuss it more in a few paragraphs.
Most times I didn’t know I was hypoglycemic – no sweats and shakes and grumbling belly because my digestion had become sluggish. When my doc needled me, my belly erupted with multiple roars of hunger, followed by the sweats and shakes. Under his care I have several times returned to sound sleep, my digestion ramps up, I eat TONS, and I lose weight. But those darn layoffs and financial difficulties kept throwing me back into the bad patterns.
Finally, in the summer of 2013 (the summer of Laura), I overthrew my fear of not sleeping. I was not longer afraid to talk about it and aggressively started seeking solutions on my own.
As I stated above, my troubles started with not falling asleep. This year I tried melatonin, which helps bring sleep. My doc said to only take it a few days because it is a hormone and can cause my natural production of melatonin to diminish if I take it too long. I took a time release 2 mg version and it helped me sleep through the night for a few nights. That was all I needed to begin to conquer my falling asleep anxiety, but I still had some hiccups and I was still waking.
After some research I started dosing with Mg – about 600 mg before bed. I use a powder from Frontier and I also use an Mg/potassium (K) combo because I read that K helps people to sleep through the night. The Mg has been great – I regularly and easily fall asleep, but I don’t sleep through the night, even with the K added. When I wake I sometimes dose with Mg again, read and fall back asleep. Sometimes I skip the Mg and just read and sleep. That works about ½ of the time. I am regularly getting at least six hours of sleep a night and sometimes 8 or 9. That is amazing because I have gotten there myself this time.
It took about three months of dosing before I realized that my itchy scalp largely went away, my tinnitus greatly decreased (about 85% down), my 4 years of constipation is gone and – this is going to sound weird – but I can go much longer between bathroom breaks. After having kids women have to pee a lot more, but since taking the Mg I can go so much longer without. It is pretty shocking.
It turns out many people are low on Mg, but I didn’t think I was one until now. With as much bone broth as I eat it doesn’t make sense. My doc says that our world is so toxic and stressed that even the best eaters, him included, are often low on Mg.
Even though my ability to fall asleep is fine, I am still waking almost nightly, and I for awhile I couldn't fall back asleep. My doc of Oriental medicine was treating me with PS via a product called Adrenacalm (a rub on cream), but I wasn’t aware of the PS component. This great MD I know explained to me that PS helps a person to stay asleep, and staying asleep was what I needed. I didn’t know how to dose it in pill form and dabbled ineffectively with it. Why I didn’t ask him for guidance I don’t know, because he would have told me.
Being that it was the summer of Laura and I was adamant about finding a solution, I reached out to a high profile Paleo person who has discussed PS. Given how busy he is, I was shocked that he answered and that he has joined my journey in more ways. He told me to start dosing at 300 mg a day for a week. If no change then move to 400 for a week, all the way to 600. If I don’t sleep through the night at 600 mg, then it isn’t a PS issue and I need to get my hormone levels checked.
It turns out that PS doesn’t help me sleep through the night anymore. Looking back, I know that up until about 2 years ago it did. Basically I am replete in PS and need to stop messing with it.
TESTOSTERONE – UGH!
I was emailing with an MD who specializes in aging – long story, but he is also a surgeon and a breast health specialist that I saw when I had an abnormal Thermascan reading (turns out I am fine after he double checked with ultrasound). He is a great guy who gets the food scene and occasionally refers a patient to me to teach them how to cook and eat so that they can avoid meds and surgery. Anyway, I had an ultrasound question – I never ask him questions even though he would probably answer any question I sent him and I don’t know why I don’t ask – and in addition to the ultrasound question I told him about my PS challenge and the recommendation to get hormone testing. He quickly sent me a link for testing, I ordered my test on the Internet, the same day I had blood drawn at the facility of my choice and the next day I had my results. All hormone levels were normal except for testosterone - it was in the basement, way subterranean.
How can that be? How can I be so physically strong with such low testosterone? It turns out that adrenal fatigue (caused by lack of sleep and other stressors) reduces testosterone production. Cortisol, produced by the adrenals, ramps up because of lack of sleep, and when it is up testosterone production is down. Low testosterone causes night waking, which causes lack of sleep, which causes adrenal fatigue, which produces cortisol, which reduces testosterone!! What an ugly cycle.
Low testosterone also causes cold hands and feet, which I developed after my encounter with the prof I mentioned at the start of this post, so I think I have had low testosterone since my mid-20s. Dang! The Michigan, dive into Lake Superior (with ice I must add) undergraduate who could withstand any cold (windchills of 90° below) has been gone for a long time.
So Now What?
My MD friend who specializes in aging recommended a testosterone implant (cost of $700 and only covered by insurance if you are a man. I won’t get started on that, but geez women get hosed). He said it was the only way to improve, but he forgot who he was dealing with and that I will work hard to recover. I know that I can get my adrenal glands working better and that they will produce more testosterone because my doc of Oriental medicine has taken me there before. I researched and asked the MD if he thought that eating liver, increasing vitamin C and doing whatever else I could to improve my adrenal glands would address the problem and get me sleeping through the night. He said yes, that was possible.
The doc then offered me a shot of testosterone that would last for about a week. I would know what normal was supposed to feel like. By sleeping through the night because of the shot I thought it could jumpstart regular nights of full sleep. I was very tempted, but it could end up like the guy in that Flowers for Algernon book that you read in elementary school – he has below normal intelligence, he is offered an opportunity to be smart and he takes it, only to watch the intelligence begin to fade and he knows it is fading. If you haven’t read Algernon it is worth the read.
I sent the hormone results to my Paleo friend and he said “Wowzers!” He isn’t a specialist in female hormones but he said he would be glad to start researching. Given how busy he is, I told him not to bother because I had other resources. Again, what a great guy – I haven’t even met him and he was willing to spend some time helping me.
My doc of Oriental medicine weighed in on the results. He gave me a great paradigm that I wish I would have had a long time ago. For people with sleeping problems like mine, PS is often the first stop, and if things don’t normalize then move on to minerals (which I did with Magnesium) and if that doesn’t take care of it then it is time to explore hormones, which is where I am now.
My doc says that from an Oriental medicine perspective I need to nourish the Yang to improve testosterone, but that translating functional medicine into Oriental medicine isn’t straightforward yet. I don’t want to be using $700 implants and I am willing to tinker to get my adrenals working again. So this is what I am doing at his recommendation later this week when my supplements arrive:
It is important to take the supplements in the a.m., as they will give me energy through the day. If I were to take the supplements too late in the day then I could be up all night. My doc says that in a month I should know if this protocol is effective. If it isn’t, then some more hormone testing is needed because the test I took isn’t detailed enough.
I will be reporting my results as they come clear.
I am stunned at how long the journey can take – almost half my life – and that fear can play such a role.
I learned that I am in some ways a lazy patient, waiting for the docs I trust to put me on the right path. I will do whatever they say, but they may not be saying all that is needed because I'm not giving them enough info or because they are human and don’t always see the next step or big picture. Now that I am finally fed up with my sleep situation and taking charge I am seeing results and the docs are giving me new types of guidance. I was sleeping at least six hours a night without the help of anyone but me. That is awesome. I am on the cusp of pulverizing this problem for good.
I learned that having a team is crucial. This journey has involved 2 MDs, 1 doc of Oriental medicine, two homeopaths, a Paleo community leader, and, most importantly, ME not being afraid and taking charge.
I learned again that life is cycles. There is a time to charge into the world and a time to be quiet. This is my time to be quiet and recover my adrenals. My workouts are minimal at best – just walking and a few push-ups and squats. Nothing to draw from my adrenals. I am rarely blogging. I quit using the computer at night and have greatly reduced my wasted time on it during the day so that I can free up time to educate and play with my smart and growing son without the stress of being rushed because I am on the computer doing stupid shit.
I had a good night’s sleep last night and feel like I can do so many things today, but I won’t. No rushing, no stress. If I feel this good now, I can’t imagine what having more normal testosterone and sleeping through the night for the rest of my life will feel like.
I decided to launch a website based business and provide health-related research, personal chefing, and motivational coaching for those who have identified a healing path that they wish to follow. It has been an interesting process, figuring out how to write for that site and my blog and make them different. You will see that I have been at it for awhile and there is some new content – just visit my website (and its related blog) at LauraCombs.com.
Today I decided to announce my website on my Moving Strongly Forward blog because I wrote the most important post I will probably ever write. If you listen to the podcast that I link to in my website’s article and then take action, much of what troubles you will likely disappear. You can stop being a health victim and become healthy and empowered.
Why did I start this website? Because I am providing health-related research to so many people in addition to the occasional coaching and chefing that I do for the patients of a great MD. You can read about some of the people I have helped on my Testimonials page.
I have to say that I am pretty darn good at what I do, and that has become amplified these past couple of days. I have been interviewing personal chefs for some friends of mine who live in another state, and while these people may be good chefs, their knowledge of food and health is superficial and often misguided. So I educate them. And I educate health coaches and other credentialed people who ask for my feedback.
If you know of anyone who has interest in food and health but lacks the time to research it, please consider sending them to my website along with a recommendation that I put out good information. I can’t believe I have been blogging and researching for five years for Moving Strongly Forward. I have learned much, and I have helped a lot of people. Hopefully now I can make it my profession.
Thank you for reading!